Asia Lite | Death of Hong Kong CD store another internet casualty
The closure of a well-known CD shop in Sino Centre and the wedding of Aaron Kwok (inset) with a model could be written in Hong Kong's pop music culture history. Photo: Google Map, Wikimedia Commons
The closure of a well-known CD shop in Sino Centre and the wedding of Aaron Kwok (inset) with a model could be written in Hong Kong's pop music culture history. Photo: Google Map, Wikimedia Commons

Death of Hong Kong CD store another internet casualty

Carl Cheung, owner of the 100 square foot space, laments demise due to a lack of customers as most stars such as Aaron Kwok no longer releases albums

April 21, 2017 5:13 PM (UTC+8)

It is ironic that the very technology that has led to a 100 square foot music store’s demise in Mong Kok, Kowloon, is the place the owner uses to announce its end.

Carl Cheung, owner of CD Exchange Hong Kong, that can be found in the basement of Sino Center in Mong Kok posted a sensational farewell on his Facebook page. Sino Center was famous for selling everything from music to Japanese drama series and adult videos before the internet eroded his business.

The post read, “Come and talk with me, hug me and kiss me! Come and buy your last compact disc in this smallest and last CD store… you are all I have treasured in the past 20-odd years. If you have time, come and see me for the last time.”

That message struck a chord this week with many customers, most of whom have become online music lovers.

Cheung started the shop in 1990 when demand for video CDs were popular and he paid a monthly rent of HK$2,000 (US$257). Fast forward 27 years and he now pays more than HK$20,000 per month which would be hard to do with fewer and fewer customers.

“I have never complained about the crazy rent,” Cheung said. “I can only succumb to fate.”

He lamented how many customers take photos of the CD cover or its commentary with their smartphones, then download the tunes for free instead of buying from him.

He did not understand why people would pay around HK$100 for a bowl of Japanese ramen, but complain about the cost of an imported European CD as being rather expensive at HK$140.

CD Exchange is a business model that has become obsolete just as video rental shops – KPS or Blockbuster – as most people download their favorite music or movies at their home or mobile devices.

While a lot of content is available for free on the web, some people will still pay for goods from online shopping, clearly a big discount to the retail stores.

This is also probably why there are a few empty shops at Sino Center, which used to be the dominant destination among youngsters looking for entertainment and games before YouTube.

Unlike the plethora of music choices today, Canto-pop music was the major form of entertainment for nearly 30 years.

In the 1990s, the so-called Four Heavenly Kings – Jacky Cheung Hok-yau, Andy Lau Tak-wah, Leon Lai-ming and Aaron Kwok Fu-shing – were arguably the last of the Canto-pop superstars.

Kwok, who married 29-year-old mainland Chinese model Moka Fang this week, has not released a CD album for seven years. He still sings in concerts and maintains a film presence, but rarely produces new songs or albums.

Funnily enough, his father-in-law admitted to the 52-year-old Kwok that he had been a long-time fan, local media reported, citing participants in the wedding banquet.

Times have changed. Just like when video killed the radio star, it seems the internet has done the same for CDs, VCDs and the retailers who depended on their sales.

All good singers – and their CD shops – will be dearly missed for some of us.

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